Ben Stein on John Boehner, Statesman

The House Speaker broke with Tea Partiers to allow a vote on a debt ceiling increase; will GOP umbrage give way to GOP wins in the Senate and White House? Here's is "Sunday Morning" contributor Ben Stein's take:

Rarely are political conflicts one-sided. There are almost always good arguments on both sides. Such was the situation confronting the Honorable John Boehner, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives this past week.

The government was running out of money. The government needed an increase in the debt limit. The GOP (who control the House) were opposed unless the Democrats in the White House and the Senate were willing to allow spending cuts.

Mr. Obama said no; he wanted a clean debt limit increase, with no conditions at all.

Now in the last three years, this kind of standoff has resulted in crisis, cliffhangers and shutdowns. Some modest savings were accomplished by them, but by and large they just left the impression that the GOP Congress was bull-headed and short-sighted.

Now, as F. Scott Fitzgerald said, "It takes two to make an accident." To my way of thinking, Mr. Obama's wild overspending and obstinacy led to these crises at least as much as GOP obstinacy and under-taxing.

But the public did not see it that way. They largely blame the Republicans.

Mr. and Ms. John Q. Public are the real audience here. Mr. Boehner saw that he could have another ruckus with Mr. Obama and shut down the government, but if he did, he would lose an immense opportunity: the public is angry about the mess involving Obamacare.  They may be angry enough to elect a GOP-controlled House and Senate in 2014.

If there were another shutdown, that opportunity might be lost.

So, to protect the party, to avoid the impression of an obstructionist Republican Party, Mr. Boehner broke with the overwhelming majority of his caucus. He allowed a vote on the debt ceiling increase. It passed via immense Democrat support -- and now he looks like a statesman, and maybe he is.

But he is a very smart statesman, and while the Tea Partiers are screaming for his scalp, politics is a devious game and he may have just done something extremely clever. The Democrats may have fallen into a trap that leads to a GOP Congress next term.

The only question is: what the heck do we do then?


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